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WOZA reviews last days of Bulawayo-Harare Walk
Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
October 04, 2004

At 1:30 pm, on Wednesday 29 September, 9 members of WOZA walked into Africa Unity Square in Harare Zimbabwe. Ten days earlier 35 women had begun a 440-kilometer sponsored walk from Bulawayo to Harare. They were joined for 60-kilometer stints by up to 120 women from Bulawayo and Harare. The walk objectives were to raise funds for women’s rights activists due to be affected if the NGO Bill becomes law and to protest against the passing of the Bill.

On Tuesday 28th September, just 60 km from Harare, Police arrested 52 activists as they walked towards their lunchtime base just 15 km from Norton. They were arrested by Norton Police and taken to Selous Police Station. Some of them were moved to Chegutu and Kadoma where they were held in custody for 3 days before a magistrate ruled that they had no case to answer and ordered their release. The fifty-two, comprising 48 women and 4 men who had volunteered to drive and guard the women were harassed, intimidated, threatened by Police officers. They had money stolen from them and Police even looted their supplies. A bowser carrying water for the group was drained of water and searched for any hidden documentation – none was located. Most of the 52 had their homes searched as Police attempted to find ‘inflammatory or subversive material prejudicial to the security of the state’.

On a positive note many Police officers whispered their admiration for the work of WOZA with one recommending the opening of a WOZA branch in Chegutu for his wife to attend. Many Police officers said they listen to the independent radio stations and that they had been monitoring our progress.

After the arrest of the 52, only 2 WOZA women remained out of custody, Jenni Williams and Siphiwe Maseko. Later that evening when Siphiwe went to deliver food for the prisoners, she too was arrested leaving just Jenni Williams. Siphiwe was assaulted by Police officers but was released on Thursday without being charged. She was assaulted by a plain-clothes officer called Dhliwayo, PISI Norton. He stooped so low as to use vulgar swear words to the women.

As Wednesday morning dawned, Jenni Williams began to complete the walk to Harare. WOZA women had agreed that no matter what, the walk was to be completed. She walked alone for 25 km before she was joined by Harare women in Kuwadzana and Warren Park. One woman had her 4-month daughter Tafadzwa Trish with her. As the group arrived in the outskirts of Harare two women living with HIV/Aids joined the walk. Unfortunately, one lady only managed half a city block before fainting. The other would spend 3 days in custody with the WOZA women.

When the group arrived at Africa Unity Square they thanked the almighty for the work and sacrifice of the WOZA women and they prayed for those arrested in Chegutu to be quickly released. After singing a religious song, they dispersed only to be arrested less than a block away. They would be charged under Section 19 of the Public Order Security Act (POSA) and are due to appear in a Harare magistrates court on 13 October 2004. Police said they had committed an offence by ‘praying in public’. Three of the women were allegedly beaten during interrogation by a plain-clothes officer called Mhondoro. Affidavits are being prepared for legal recourses.

WOZA wish to declare that the sponsored walk was a victory for freedom loving Zimbabweans. We wish the walk to be entered into the Guinness Book of Records as the longest protest walk conducted under draconian legislation like POSA. We wish to announce that there were two undeclared objectives of the walk. One was to set an example to Zimbabweans that they must be prepared to sacrifice if they want freedom. This is explained well by Nelson Mandela in his Rivonia speech – he described the freedom fighters as ‘Amadelakufa’ – those willing to sacrifice. The second objective was to demonstrate to Zimbabweans that democratic space must be fought for. Many a demonstration in Zimbabwe has been measured in terms of metres; WOZA just set a new standard – kilometres. Administrators of the Guinness Book of Records will shortly be receiving correspondence from us.

Meanwhile the women of WOZA are in the final stages of planning the visit to Parliament to lobby legislators. Women will walk to Parliament in silence and request to see the Speaker to hand over their petition. They will risk further arrest to do so.

WOZA thank members of the press for their reportage of the Walk and arrest of activists.

Visit the Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) fact sheet

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